Up an’ at’em bright and early again this morning with our day starting around 6am with a sunrise hike around the Bryce Amphitheatre for a few hours. Spires and hoodoos of different heights, shapes and colours (mostly red sandstone with white and grey layers near the top), the morning walk was spectacular. Bonus, we got up early enough that we didn’t see many people at all!
After a few miles of exploring the trails we headed back to the lodge for breakfast and then got on the bike to explore the 15 miles of park before noon. Bryce Canyon is, as the name implies, a canyon. And most of it is either spires and rock formations as in the amphitheatre, forest, or plateaus of altitudes of around 2500-3000m with great vantage points of the canyon below.
By noon we were back at the lodge for a short break before our horseback ride at 1pm. Three hours of exploring the canyon floor by horseback and a chance to see even more of the hoodoos that we missed during our morning hike. It was a special treat for sure, and one of the highlights of the trip.
By 5pm we said goodbye to the mystical Bryce Canyon National Park and headed to the stunning Zion National Park, the closest of the Mighty Five to Las Vegas. A quick drive through Zion and I’m already a fan – it is stunning. I can’t wait to hike the trails here over the next two days and share some pictures.
Fun Facts about Hoodoos courtesy of wikipedia:
What’s the difference between spires and hoodoos? Spires are fairly uniform in pattern with a larger diameter on the bottom and tapering from the ground upward. Hoodoos, on the otherhand, have variable thickness, and can and often do) have a larger balancing rock on top of a long, totem-shaped body. The formation on top is made of harder type of rock resting on (and protecting) relatively softer and more easily eroded rock column below.
Hoodoos typically form in areas where a thick layer of a relatively soft rock, such as mudstone, poorly cemented sandstone or tuff (consolidated volcanic ash), is covered by a thin layer of hard rock, such as well-cemented sandstone, limestone or basalt. In glaciated mountainous valleys the soft eroded material may be glacial till with the protective capstones being large boulders in the till. Over time, cracks in the resistant layer allow the much softer rock beneath to be eroded and washed away. Hoodoos form where a small cap of the resistant layer remains, and protects a cone of the underlying softer layer from erosion. Further erosion of the soft layer causes the cap to be undercut, eventually falling off, and the remaining cone is then quickly eroded.
Typically, most hoodoos form from two weathering processes that continuously work together in eroding the edges of a rock formation. The primary weathering force at Bryce Canyon (as one example) is frost wedging. The hoodoos at Bryce Canyon experience over 200 freeze/thaw cycles each year. In the winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and then freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, pries open the cracks bit by bit, making them even wider, much like the way a pothole forms in a paved road.
In addition to frost wedging, rain also sculpts these hoodoos. In most places today, the rainwater is slightly acidic, which lets the weak carbonic acid slowly dissolve limestone grain by grain. It is this process that rounds the edges of hoodoos and gives them their lumpy and bulging profiles. Where internal mudstone and siltstone layers interrupt the limestone, you can expect the rock to be more resistant to the chemical weathering because of the comparative lack of limestone. Many of the more durable hoodoos are capped with a special kind of magnesium-rich limestone called dolomite. Dolomite, being fortified by the mineral magnesium, dissolves at a much slower rate, and consequently protects the weaker limestone underneath it. Rain is also the chief source of erosion (the actual removal of the debris). In the summer, monsoon type rainstorms travel through the Bryce Canyon region bringing short duration high intensity rain.